Matthew 9 Study Notes
9:2 Jesus elsewhere insisted that illness is not necessarily a direct consequence of a person’s sin (Jn 9:1-3). Seeing their faith implies that personal faith (“their” included the paralytic and his friends) was necessary to receive Jesus’s healing and forgiveness. On the association of personal faith with Jesus’s miracles, see vv. 22,28-29; 8:13. In chap. 9, Jesus healed people who were lame (vv. 1-8), blind (vv. 27-31), and unable to speak (vv. 32-34). A Jewish audience who knew OT prophecies would recognize these miracles as the fulfillment of Is 35:5-6.
9:3 Scribes were a guild of scholars skilled in copying and interpreting the OT. They viewed themselves as guardians of Jewish traditions. The scribes considered Jesus’s pronouncement of forgiveness to be blasphemous since only God can forgive sins. By asserting this divine right, Jesus put himself in God’s place (Mk 2:7).
9:4 Jesus’s ability to know the scribes’ secret thoughts implies supernatural knowledge.
9:5 Jesus proved his authority to forgive sins by removing the physical consequences of sin.
9:6 Jesus associated his authority to forgive sins with his identity as the Son of Man (see note at 8:18-20). Although first-century Jews did not associate forgiveness of sin with Messiah, Is 53 showed that Messiah would offer the sacrifice that accomplished atonement for sin. Matthew alludes to this in Mt 8:17 (see also 20:28).
9:7-8 Although other individuals do not share Jesus’s authority to forgive sins, Jesus did impart to his disciples the authority to heal sickness and disease (10:1). The amazement of the crowds shows that the scribes were incapable of performing such miracles even though they claimed to be God’s authoritative spokespersons.
9:9 Parallel texts (Mk 2:14; Lk 5:27) identify this tax collector as Levi. Most Jews had two or three names. Matthew means “gift of Yahweh,” and it may have been a nickname given to Levi by Jesus (cp. Mt 16:17-18) to remind him that his conversion and call were gifts from God. Many interpreters believe this verse identifies Matthew as the author of this Gospel.
9:10-11 Tax collectors were detested by many first-century Jews because they served the oppressive Roman government and often abused their authority for their own financial gain.
9:12-13 Hosea 6:6 is an important text in Matthew, since it is quoted twice (see 12:7). In its original context, the verse meant that sacrifice would not secure atonement for anyone who sought God’s mercy but did not extend it to others. Jesus often insisted that those who seek forgiveness from God must also offer it to others (5:23-24; 6:14-15; 18:21-35). The two Hs 6:6 citations are the only times that Matthew uses the term sacrifice. Elsewhere when he refers to sacrifice, he uses the term gift (Gk do-ron). This is likely because Jesus’s death was the one true sacrifice that secured atonement for sins (8:17; 20:28). Matthew wanted Jewish Christians who continued to practice temple rituals to view their sacrifices as gifts expressing gratitude for forgiveness already received through Jesus rather than acts that accomplish atonement.
|Greek pronunciation||[EH leh ahss]|
|Uses in Matthew||3 (Lk, 6)|
|Uses in the NT||27|
|Focus passage||Matthew 9:13|
Eleos is one of several NT words meaning mercy. Each of the three times that this word appears in Matthew, Jesus uses it to refer to principles established in the OT, where God clearly required that his people show mercy. Twice Jesus quotes Hs 6:6, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13; 12:7). The Hebrew term (chesed) underlying the Greek translation combines the ideas of love, mercy, and faithful loyalty. The Pharisees condemned Jesus for fraternizing with social outcasts (Mt 9:11), but he reminded them that God expected his people to show mercy before giving sacrifice. In Mt 23 Jesus rebuked the Pharisees even more harshly, and one of his grievances was their neglect of the more important aspects of the law (“justice, mercy, and faithfulness”) even while they meticulously tithed their mint, dill, and cumin.
9:16-17 The images of a shrinking patch tearing the garment that it was intended to repair and brittle wineskins rupturing from the gases released by fermenting wine picture the incompatibility of traditional Jewish teaching and Jesus’s teaching.
9:18-19 The man was a leader of the synagogue.
9:23-26 The presence of mourners and flute players indicate that the girl had been dead for a while and that her funeral had begun (m. Ketub. 4:4). The word asleep implies that death is a state from which believers will be awakened at the resurrection (1Th 4:13-14).
9:34 Because they were unable to deny Jesus’s repeated exorcisms, the Pharisees attempted to dismiss them as evidence of his alliance with Satan. Jesus later showed how unreasonable this accusation was (12:25-32).
9:36 The words like sheep without a shepherd recall Ezk 34. They imply that Israel’s spiritual condition reflected the failures of its spiritual shepherds. By showing compassion for the abused and neglected sheep of God’s flock, Jesus identified himself as the Shepherd of God’s people, Lord and Servant of David (Ezk 34:11-16,20-24). See also Mt 25:32; 26:31.
9:37-38 By sending out the Twelve in Mt 10:5, Jesus identified himself as Lord of the harvest. Since OT texts and rabbinic parables presented the Lord as master of the harvest in portrayals of eschatological judgment (Is 18:4-5; 27:12; Hs 6:11; Jl 3:13), this identification strongly implies Jesus’s deity (3:11-12; 13:39,41).